Theonomy, from theos (god) and nomos (law), is a hypothetical Christian form of government in which society is ruled by divine law. Theonomists hold that divine law, particularly the judicial laws of the Old Testament, should be observed by modern societies. The precise definition of theonomy is the starting presumption that the Old Covenant judicial laws given to Israel have not been abrogated therefore all civil governments are morally obligated to enforce them (including the specific penalties) and furthermore that all civil governments must refrain from coercion in areas where Scripture has not prescribed their intervention (the “regulative principle of the state”). Note that theonomy is distinct from the "theonomous ethics" proposed by Paul Tillich.
Thomas Aquinas held that "if a sovereign were to order these judicial precepts to be observed in his kingdom, he would not sin." Some have mistakenly referred to this as "General Equity Theonomy" but it is in fact distinct from theonomy insofar as Aquinas believed the specifics of the Old Testament judicial laws were no longer binding. He instead taught that the judicial precepts contained varying degrees of universal principles of justice that reflected natural law.
In Christian reconstructionism, theonomy is the idea that God provides the basis of both personal and social ethics in the Bible. Theonomic ethics asserts that the Bible has been given as the abiding standard for all human government – individual, family, church, and civil – and that biblical Law must be incorporated into a Christian theory of biblical ethics.
Theonomic ethics, to put it simply, represents a commitment to the necessity, sufficiency, and unity of Scripture. For an adequate and genuinely Christian ethic, we must have God's word, only God's word, and all of God's word. Nearly every critic of theonomic ethics will be found denying, in some way, one or more of these premises.— The Theonomic Antithesis to Other Law-Attitudes
Some critics[who?] see theonomy as a significant form of dominion theology, which they define as a type of theocracy. Theonomy posits that the biblical law is applicable to civil law, and theonomists propose biblical law as the standard by which the laws of nations may be measured, and to which they ought to be conformed.
Various theonomic authors have stated such goals as "the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics,": 223–335 exclusion of non-Christians from voting and citizenship,: 87 and the application of Biblical law by the state.: 346–347 Under such a system of biblical law, homosexual acts,: 212 adultery, witchcraft, and blasphemy: 118 would be punishable by death. Propagation of idolatry or "false religions" would be illegal and could also be punished by the death penalty. More recent theonomic writers such as Joel McDurmon, President of American Vision, have moved away from this position, stating that these death penalties are no longer binding in the new covenant. Polemicist and theonomy critic, JD Hall, who debated McDurmon in 2015, has argued that abandoning Mosaic penologies such as the death penalty means that McDurmon and others who hold similar positions cannot be said to hold to theonomy in any meaningful way.
According to theonomist Greg Bahnsen, the laws of God are the standard which Christian voters and officials ought to pursue. Civil officials are also not constrained to literally enforce every biblical law, such as one-time localized imperatives, certain administrative details, typological foreshadows, or those against envy and unbelief. "Rulers should enforce only those laws for which God revealed social sanctions to be imposed.": 10
Relation to Reformed theologyEdit
Some in the modern Reformed churches are critical of any relationship between the historical Reformed faith and theonomy, while other Calvinists affirm that theonomy is consistent with historic Reformed confessions.
- Jones, David W. (1 November 2013). An Introduction to Biblical Ethics. B&H Publishing Group. p. 209. ISBN 9781433680779.
- English, Adam C. (2003). "Christian Reconstruction after Y2K". New Religious Movements and Religious Liberty in America. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press. pp. 113–114.
Theonomy – A system of government characterized by being governed by divine law.
- Bahnsen, Greg (April 1994). "What Is "Theonomy"? PE180 New Horizons". Archived from the original on 2020-11-12.
- Bahnsen, Greg L. (1991). No other standard : theonomy and its critics (PDF). Tyler, Tex.: Institute for Christian Economics. pp. 19–29. ISBN 0-930464-56-7. OCLC 23690584.
- Schwertley, Brian. "A Critique of a Critique of Theonomy: An Analysis of Matthew Winzer's Misrepresentations of Theonomy and the Confession of Faith" (PDF). p. 2.
- Neuhaus, Richard John (May 1990). "Why Wait for the Kingdom? The Theonomist Temptation". First Things. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
- Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 104, a. 3
- Clausen, Mark A., Professor of History, Cedarville University "Theonomy in the Middle Ages". Paper presented at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott Wardman Park, Omni Shoreham, Washington Hilton, Washington, DC.
- "The General Equity of the Judicial Law". Reformed Books Online. 2016-07-16. Retrieved 2021-04-09.
- Bahnsen, Greg. "The Theonomic Antithesis to Other Law-Attitudes". Covenant Media Foundation. Retrieved 2008-11-27.
- Chilton, David (1984). Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion. Dominion Press. ISBN 0-930462-52-1. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
- North, Gary (1989). Political Polytheism. Institute for Christian Economics. ISBN 0-930464-32-X. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
- Bahnsen, Greg (1985). By This Standard: The Authority Of God's Law Today. Institute for Christian Economics. ISBN 0-930464-06-0. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
- DeMar, Gary (1987). Ruler of the Nations. Dominion Press. ISBN 9780930462192. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
- North, Gary (1988). Unconditional Surrender: God's Program for Victory. Institute for Christian Economics. ISBN 0-930464-12-5.
- An Interview with Greg L. Bahnsen
- Rushdoony, R.J., The Institutes of Biblical Law, (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1973), pp. 38–39.
- Schwertley, Brian M., "Political Polytheism"
- Joel McDurmon, The Bounds of Love (2016).
- The Theonomy Debate | Joel McDurmon vs. Jordan Hall
- Hall, J.D., "On Joel McDurmon’s Abandonment of Theonomy"
- See, for instance, Theonomy: A Reformed Critique published by the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary and Westminster Seminary California. Also "The Westminster Confession of Faith: A Theonomic Document?" by Ligon Duncan.
- See Theonomic Ethics and the Westminster Confession by Kenneth Gentry, The New Puritanism: A Preliminary Assessment of Christian Reconstruction by Robert Bowman, Jr., Theonomy and the Westminster Confession by Martin Foulner, The Theonomic Precedent in the Theology of John Calvin by Christopher Strevel, and Calvinism and the Judicial Law of Moses by James Jordan, and The Theonomic Thesis in Confessional and Historical Perspective by Greg Bahnsen. Biblical Ethics and the Westminster Standards by Dr. W. Gary Crampton
This further reading section may contain inappropriate or excessive suggestions that may not follow Wikipedia's guidelines. Please ensure that only a reasonable number of balanced, topical, reliable, and notable further reading suggestions are given; removing less relevant or redundant publications with the same point of view where appropriate. Consider utilising appropriate texts as inline sources or creating a separate bibliography article. (March 2021)
- Primary sources by theonomists
- Bahnsen, Greg (2002) . Theonomy in Christian Ethics (3rd ed.). Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press. ISBN 978-0-87552-111-4.
- Clauson, Marc A. (2006). A History of the Idea of "God's Law" (Theonomy): Its Origins, Development and Place in Political and Legal Thought. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 9780773455986.
- Gentry, Kenneth (2006). Covenantal Theonomy: A Response to T. David Gordon and Klinean Covenantalism. Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Foundation.
- Jordan, James B (1984). The Law of the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21–23. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics.
- North, Gary, ed. (1991). Theonomy: An Informed Response. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics.
- Secondary sources and criticisms
- Barker, William; Godfrey, W. Robert, eds. (1990). Theonomy: A Reformed Critique. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-52171-8.
- Barron, Bruce (1992). Heaven on Earth? The Social & Political Agenda of Dominion Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. ISBN 978-0-31053611-6.
- Estelle, Bryan (May 2007). "Review: Covenantal Theonomy". Ordained Servant. 16 (5). Archived from the original on 20 June 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
- Gordon, T. David (1994). "Critique of Theonomy; a Taxonomy" (PDF). Westminster Theological Journal. 56 (Spring 1994): 23–43. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 August 2011. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
- Wright, Christopher J. H. (1992). "The Ethical Authority of the Old Testament: A Survey of Approaches: Part I" (PDF). Tyndale Bulletin. 43 (1): 101–20. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 January 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
- ——— (1992). "The Ethical Authority of the Old Testament: A Survey of Approaches: Part II" (PDF). Tyndale Bulletin. 43 (2): 203–31. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 January 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2013.